Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Questioning those who feel they are Questioning Conventional Wisdom in the COVID-19 Crisis

Youtube recommended the following video to me, so I watched.  After watching I posted a public comment, as I felt the video didn't live up to its fairly sensationalist title.

I find it interesting that a traditional media style sensationalist "Questioning Conventional Wisdom in the COVID-19 Crisis" headline was used.

What I didn't see was much questioning of conventional wisdom. Sure, laypersons in the media and the general public who haven't spent much time trying to understand either the medical or economic issues may think they have wisdom, but that doesn't make it wisdom. There are even people who are commenting along the lines of "Ya, they were wrong -- thanks for correcting the record" as if this were some sort of political partisan issue. But those of us who have been thinking about these things seem to all be on a fairly similar page.

This pandemic, or one like it, has been predicted for decades. Viruses are a fact of life, and the interaction between globalisation and these types of pathogens are fairly well understood.

Rather than carrying out any type of emergency preparedness, short-term thinking politicians even reduced funding to previously existing emergency preparedness programs. The higher health and economic costs of this pandemic is largely due to these deliberate policy decisions. The fact we can't quickly get the numbers to make better projections of the impact is largely due to these deliberate policy choices. I don't see this as lives-vs-lives (economic vs pathogen), but lives-vs-bad-policy. I expect the costs in terms of lives will be quite high, and only a percentage directly attributed to people catching COVID-19.

I believe Dr. Jay Bhattacharya has incorrectly articulated the issue in an important way, which is the lack of emergency preparedness was pretty much entirely a matter of short-term dollars. It was largely politicians wanting to reduce government spending that reduced the funding towards emergency preparedness, so whether the result is deaths from economic or health harm doesn't make much difference when it was short-term thinking money focused policy decisions that were the primary cause.

What policy decisions are made after this specific pandemic subsides will determine if anything useful was learned, or if deliberate policy decisions will be made that will cost future lives. This pandemic isn't a one-off, and I expect for a variety of reasons that this will become a fairly regular occurrence.

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